Miranda's lips pursed as she read the interview of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in Panorama Magazine in the original Italian. She toggled between the tabs to minimize the magazine page and maximize Nigel Kipling’s face. “This is an outrage.”
He nodded. “I know. I couldn’t believe it when I read it.” Rubbing at the stubble on his chin, he wondered if it was visible to the Queen of Fashion over their Skype connection.
Fighting back a yawn, he winced to hear Miranda’s saying, “Am I boring you?”
“No but there is a five hour time difference. My days typically end before this,” he answered.
“Haven’t you learned yet that there is no typical for the EIC?”
He laughed. All those years of watching Miranda at the helm of Runway, should have prepared him for when she maneuvered things to make him the Editor in Chief of Runway Italia. “I must be a slow learner.”
They gazed at each other through the screens and across the miles and remembered that conversation in her study almost five years before.
“Do you think our readers are ready for a man to head this magazine?” she had asked. “Would they trust your vision?”
Staring into the amber liquid in the crystal glass, he wondered aloud, “Are you asking or being a bitch?”
Miranda had smiled. “Point taken.” She flipped her signature curl of hair out of her eyes. “You know I don’t typically explain anything but you deserve one. I have a plan to see all the Runways brought in line under my control. There will be some shared content to reduce expenses, some consolidation to reduce overhead and a unified vision to increase readership internationally.”
“Irv won’t go for that.”
“His days are numbered. My conversations with the two new Board members and the Elias-Clark Family trustees has assured me that the cost benefit analysis bears out a restructuring that moves him out and me to oversee Runway Group.”
“Imperative. We grow or the brand dies and that is unacceptable to me.”
“Not what I’d like to see either.”
“Good.” She took a mouthful of red wine and swished it over her palate. Swallowing she said, “I haven’t apologized for the maneuvering I did then and I won’t now but it protected you in the end. We both saw how quickly James and Jacqueline’s little collaboration fell apart.”
Nigel had to admit she was correct there. The sizeable raise she also bestowed when they returned to New York had also helped to blunt the pain. He drank from his glass and said, “Go on.”
“You are my second and I fear that is as far as you can go here. I won’t set you up for failure. However, Europeans are less likely to take issue with a man as editor of a fashion magazine.”
“I know.” He hated the glass ceiling in the way of his chosen career path.
“I would like you to take over the Italy edition when the merger goes through.” She poured him another finger of twenty-year-old scotch while he stared at her in shock. “You trusted me when others didn’t back then in Paris. I ask for just a little more.”
He smiled at the memory of her then and to see her now, ready to go to battle for what she thought was the right thing.
“You’re not slow, my old friend,” she said. “These two, on the other hand, should have learned something from the backlash from the last time they spouted off about adoption.”
“They’ve always pushed the envelope. Who can forget that gang rape spread from 2011?” Nigel shuddered.
“There is envelope pushing and then there is anachronistic. To say, in this day and age that the only family is the traditional one is out of step with all the single-headed families, blended families, same-sex families and families of choice.”
“It isn’t just the modern family they dissed. I don’t understand how they could say that about chemical offspring.”
“Didn’t Stefano try to have a child through artificial insemination?”
“Indeed, in 2006 I remember him talking about a surrogate.” He shook his head. “It ended when he came out in opposition to a child growing up with gay parents.” In his best Yoda impression, he said, “The self hatred is strong in that one.”
Drumming her fingers on the desk, Miranda looked at one of the pictures to the right of her laptop. In it, her wife was holding her newborn daughter and looking at the camera while Caroline and Cassidy stood on either side of the new mother, gazing at the child. It was one of her favorite photos.
Nigel knew what her eyes were looking at. He well remembered that day and the special blessing that came into all their lives courtesy of reproductive technology. “Do they have any idea? About your daughter being a test tube baby, I mean?”
“Who doesn’t?” Miranda sneered. “Our picking semen out of a catalog was Page 6 fodder for months.”
“Those blood suckers were needlessly cruel and terribly shortsighted.”
“Indeed. There are millions of babies from in-vitro fertilizations.”
“And everyone of them was a wanted child.”
“Exactly. Few embark on the process unless they are one hundred percent committed to it. There is a lot of love out there and these procedures just allowed us to share it.” She smiled at a memory.
“What is that smile for?”
“I remember the first time we tried implantation. Our doctor left us with a suggestion that an orgasm might help and couldn’t hurt. At first, Andrea was too scandalized to even let me touch her.”
“Midwesterners,” Nigel scoffed.
“Well, it was a little more clinical than I’m comfortable with but with a little...”
“No more details, please!” Nigel laughed. “Back to the topic at hand. You do have a plan, right?”
“Of course, I do. When I’m through, those initials won’t be for Dolce and Gabbana but for dead and gone!"
“Tell me more.”
“To begin with, forward a translation to some of your friends,” Miranda said. “I’ll do the same.”
“You know Elton and his husband, David, sent us a lovely gift after Camille was born. It would behoove me to make that my first contact.”
Nigel laughed to see the glint in her eye. “Perfect.”
Glancing at her wrist, Miranda winced. “Nigel, I need to go. I promised Andrea and the girls I would be home for dinner.”
Nigel feigned shock. “Dinner? What is that of which you speak?”
She shook her head. “Thank you for staying late to bring this to my attention. I know I can always count on you.”
“You’re welcome but it was nothing. Anyone who disses my god-daughter gets what they deserve.” He blew a kiss at the screen. “Give her a kiss and maybe even a hug for her mama.”
“I will. Good night, Nigel.” Miranda terminated the call and closed the lid on her laptop. She didn’t have to raise her voice to bring Emily 2.0 into her office. Since taking over the Runway Group, she had up-scaled to an executive assistant in addition to an administrative assistant.
“Call Roy to meet me downstairs in ten minutes. Send to my phone a list of all my contacts who have adopted children or had artificial insemination. Tell the printers to hold off, as I will need to write a new letter for all magazines. Tomorrow have Monika call accounting to run the trending numbers for Dolce and Gabbana ad buys for the past four cycles and task the sales team to raise the difference in ad sales elsewhere.”
“Yes, Miranda,” Alyssa Robins answered. She had been headhunted from the White House six months ago. Working for Miranda was actually much easier than working for the First Lady. Asking no questions, she handed over the message slips and Miranda’s laptop bag and waited for further instructions.
Crumbling two of the sheets, she asked for the others to be scheduled return calls and held one slip up. “I may need to go to London if Lynette can't get her Runway London house in order.”
“I will make the necessary arrangements to open the townhouse.”
“Good.” Miranda slid the laptop into the bag. “I will be sending a number of emails from home tonight under my personal email account. If anyone contacts Runway regarding the contents, make sure everyone refrains from making comments or speculating.”
Not even batting an eye, Alyssa nodded. “Of course, Miranda. All the nondisclosure agreements and confidentiality filings should be up to date for senior staff. I will draft a memo that it is their responsibility to ensure the same of their direct reports.”
“Excellent. That is all.”
“Good night, Miranda.”
With a final nod, Miranda strode from her office to the elevator. She spent the ride down composing the email to Sir Elton in her head so she was ready to send it from her smart phone on the drive home.
She was looking forward to dinner. It had been hard finding a way to have two teenagers, a toddler and two career minded adults carve out the time for regular, sit down meals. The benefits of spending time together made up for the complications to her schedule.
Of course, it helped that her schedule had fewer demands after six at night, save for the occasional international calls and galas. Even better, Andrea made a much nicer companion for those events. Having the beautiful, up and coming journalist on her arm turned many of her social set green with envy.
After dismissing Roy for the night, she climbed the stairs with a spring in her step. Entering the foyer, she was immediately met by her wife.
Andy slid her arms around Miranda and kissed her. “Hello, sweetheart. Welcome home.”
Before Miranda could answer Caroline, Cassidy and Camille joined in the hug. These group embraces were a balm to her soul after a long day of work.
“Thank you, my darlings. Have I told you recently how much I love you?”
“You tell me everyday, in every way.”
“Good. I don’t ever want any of you to think that you aren’t wanted or loved.”
Andy pulled back slightly and gazed at her with a small frown. She acknowledged the minute head shake from Miranda with a raised eyebrow of her own. Looking down at the girls, she said, “I bet right now that we’ve got three monsters who just want dinner.”
“Yay!” Camille shouted, waving her tiny hands in the air.
“Girls, go wash up and we’ll be right there.” Andy watched them head to the bathroom before turning back to Miranda. “What’s happened?”
Miranda pulled Andy’s head down and kissed the tiny furrow between her eyes. “You’ll have to tell me someday just how you know when something’s wrong.”
“I’ll never reveal my secrets and you’ll never be able to successfully dodge my questions either. Tell me.”
“After dinner.” At Andy’s mulish look, she added, “Please.”
The please did it every time. Even after more than five years together, its rare invocation by one of publishing’s most powerful women still caused a flutter in Andy’s lower regions. Andy nodded and reached out to take her hand. “All right, Priestly, you’ll have a reprieve. Come on now, we wouldn’t want to keep the kids waiting.”
Hand in hand they walked into the dining room. The eating was interspersed with lively discussions of the day’s happenings and current events. There was much laughter and Miranda felt her heart swell as she looked over her happy family.
After dinner, the twins went upstairs to finish their homework and Andy took Camille for a bath. Miranda went into her office to send off a few more emails based on the contacts that Alyssa provided.
She glanced up when Andy returned, wearing different clothes. “Did any water stay in the tub this time?”
“How in the world does she do that?” Andy sat down on the edge of the desk. “And how do you manage to bathe her without taking one yourself?”
“If you recall, I had to wrangle two at the same time. It was learn or drown.” Miranda pushed her chair away from the desk and patted her lap. “Come here.”
Andy obeyed with alacrity. While she was the taller of the two, she loved the feeling she got from being held by Miranda.
For a few moments, they just enjoyed the closeness before Andy tipped her head and began ghosting kisses along Miranda’s jaw toward her ear. “So, are you going to tell me what had you so upset when you came in?” she whispered.
Miranda turned her head to give Andy a kiss on the lips. “Tease,” she murmured. After a few more kisses, she said, “I’ve pulled the article up on my laptop.”
Sighing to have to stop kissing, Andy stroked her finger over the touchpad and woke the computer up from sleep. She quickly scanned the interview.
Leaning her head back, Miranda watched Andy’s carotid pulse point begin to beat faster. She then saw a flush rise up Andy’s regal neck, as she got angrier and angrier. What she wasn’t prepared for was the tears in her love’s eyes when Andy turned her head.
“How could they say that?”
“I’m not sure you could find a better example of privilege than those two.”
“You don’t think that, do you?” Andy brushed a tear off her long lashes. “You don’t think Camille is unnatural because we had her artificially?”
“There is nothing artificial about our daughter, darling. We merely had assistance.”
“Only you would call that eight month saga, mere. And that isn’t taking the nine months of pregnancy into account either.
Miranda regally waved her hand. “We merely used the best technology available to harvest my eggs and combined them with your brother’s swimmers and planted them in your uterus to create a child of our own.”
“It wasn’t that easy.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“But there was lots of love.”
“Indeed. All the love a child needs to grow up smart and strong and happy.”
“But what they said…calling babies like ours synthetic.”
“Sweetheart, Camille is nothing of the sort. She is a miracle and she completed our family.”
Andy looked at her with shining eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Miranda pulled her back into her arms. “So very much.”
After a moment of basking in the scent and feel of each other, Andy asked, “What’s going to happen now?”
“Nothing you need to worry your pretty little head about.” Miranda mock glared. “And certainly nothing you need to report on in that little paper of yours.”
Tapping Miranda’s nose with her finger, Andy replied, “You know our lives are off the record.” She bit her lip. “But you are doing something, right?”
“I will always protect what is mine.” Miranda tightened her arms. “Mine.”
Andy wiggled in pleasure. “Yours.” Wiping away the last of her tears, Andy asked, sotto voce, “Why don’t you come to bed and we can see if we can make another baby?”
Miranda threw back her head and laughed from deep in her soul. “I’m all yours, Andrea. All yours.”
Elton John posted a picture on Instagram and wrote: “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic.’ And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF — a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children.”